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“Stop splashing!" I yell in frustration.
Melanie gurgles happily and slaps the water's surface with her palms.
"I told you to stop that!"
In response, she laughs in my face. She grabs a good-sized chunk of my hair and yanks with all her strength.
"YOW! Behave yourself! Stop being such a baby!"
After that, I don't even bother to wash her properly; I simply pull her out of the bath and wrap a towel around her shoulders for warmth. While I get her clothes out of the closet, Melanie shrugs her shoulders and lets the towel drop to the ground. She runs around the room with her arms spread out, pretending to be an airplane.
"Vroom vroom!"
"Lanie, cars go 'vroom vroom’. Airplanes are different."
When I get her dressed, I drag Melanie to the dining table and plop her onto the chair. She's obviously not hungry, but I try to feed her anyway.
"Yum yum! Come on Lanie, eat your porridge. You have to eat if you want to be strong and healthy."
"GROSS! How many times do I have to tell you not to spit your food out?!"
I do my best to scrape the half-eaten mush off of my shirt.
I groan. Why do they call it a doorbell if it buzzes instead of ringing? Ignoring Melanie's whining, I walk down the hallway and open the door. A teenager stands outside, chewing a wad of pink bubble gum and twirling her blonde hair around her finger.
"Hey sucker. How're you doing today?" she asks. Her tone suggests that I should be grateful to be the object of her divine attention.
It's Rebecca, my vindictive next door neighbor. Every once in a while, she stops by to make fun of Melanie and me. Her eyes survey the damage done to my shirt.
"Yuck. Aren’t you too young to be a mom?" Rebecca smirks. My hands automatically move upwards to throttle her, but I clench them into fists and grit my teeth. I speak slowly, emphasizing certain words.
"I am not a mother. Just stop, okay? Stop interfering with my personal life. Isn't it enough for you to make fun of me at school? Leave me alone."
With that eloquent speech, I slam the door as loudly as possible, but I swear I can still see her sneer etched into the walls of my cold, unfriendly home. I imagine Rebecca's smug smile as she walks away, completely unscathed, having defeated me with a simple sentence.
The bowl of porridge is on the floor, in pieces. The dining room carpet is in the process of soaking up Melanie's lunch. For one single moment, everything is deathly silent.
I watch helplessly as Melanie cries. Melanie, taller than myself, incapable of reading a simple picture book. Melanie, so heavy that I have trouble lifting her, and unable to take a bath by herself. Melanie, over 50 years old, never to regain her sense of self.
Melanie, my aging mother.

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